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Horton v. Butler

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 3, 2017

EUGENE HORTON, Petitioner,
v.
KIMBERLY BUTLER, Warden, and ADAM MONREAL, Chairman of the Prisoner Review Board, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE United States District Judge

         Petitioner Eugene Horton, an Illinois prisoner, has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He claims that the Illinois Prisoner Review Board's 2014 decision to deny him parole violated various constitutional and state law provisions and that he is actually innocent of the murder for which he was convicted. Respondents Kimberly Butler, Warden of Menard Correctional Center, and Adam Monreal, Acting Chairman of the Prisoner Review Board, respond that Horton fails to state an adequate claim for relief. For the reasons given below, the Court denies some of Horton's claims on the merits and dismisses the rest.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         In 1971, Horton was convicted of murder in the Circuit Court of Cook County. He was sentenced to 100 to 150 years of imprisonment. See People v. Horton, 304 N.E.2d 21, 23 (Ill.App.Ct. 1973); Pet. Writ Habeas, Ex. C, Prisoner Review Board Rationale, ECF No. 1. He has unsuccessfully challenged this conviction with at least two previous habeas corpus petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See U.S. ex rel. Horton v. Detella, No. 95-cv-3232, 1996 WL 543320, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 23, 1996).

         Horton has also sought to be released on parole. When the Illinois Prisoner Review Board denied his 1982 parole request, Horton challenged that decision in a petition under § 2254, claiming that his parole hearing had not complied with the requirements of due process. The district court agreed with Horton and granted the petition, ordering a new parole hearing. See Horton v. Irving, 553 F.Supp. 213, 218 (N.D. Ill. 1982). The basis for the court's decision was U.S. ex rel. Scott v. Illinois Parole and Pardon Board, 669 F.2d 1185 (7th Cir. 1982), in which the Seventh Circuit had held that due process protections apply in Illinois's parole hearings because the governing statute created a presumption of release. Id. at 1190. At the time Scott was decided, there was “no authoritative state court decision” interpreting the relevant portion of Illinois's parole statute. Id. at 1189.

         Following the district court's grant of Horton's petition, the Prisoner Review Board held a second parole hearing. This hearing went Horton's way, and he was released on parole. But within a few months he was arrested for armed robbery. Pet., Ex. C, Prisoner Review Board Rationale. He was subsequently convicted of the robbery in the Circuit Court of Cook County and sentenced to an additional sixty years of imprisonment. Id. Naturally, his parole was also revoked.

         In 2014, Horton sought parole once more. After holding a hearing, the Prisoner Review Board denied his request, citing a poor disciplinary record and concerns about his respect for the law. Id. Horton then filed his current petition under § 2254. In it, he challenges the denial of his 2014 parole request on several grounds. He also challenges his conviction for murder, but he does not challenge his armed robbery conviction.

         II. Discussion

         Construing Horton's petition liberally, the Court understands him to be asserting five claims:

1) His 2014 parole hearing did not comply with the requirements of due process.
2) The Prisoner Review Board's decision to deny him parole violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution.
3) Aspects of the parole hearing violated Illinois statutes.
4) He is actually innocent of murder.
5) His confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of ...

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